6.27.2009

michael jackson

As if the world needs more commentary on the life and death of Michael Jackson, I will, nevertheless, give more commentary. Poor Farrah Fawcett. Her long struggle with cancer, which ended on the same day, was totally eclipsed by Michael Jackson's death. We tuned into Farah's Story last night to find that it had been replaced with Ann Curry telling Michael Jackson's. With all of this, I have had a few recurring thoughts.

(1) Americans really don't like death. Actually, Americans really don't like to think about anything painful. Actually, Americans are hell-bent on avoiding pain altogether. This pattern of emotional repression where we will choose not to grieve someone's death and only celebrate their life, rings with a twinge of dishonesty for me. It is not that I think celebration of someone's life is inappropriate, it is the act of repressing pain and grief that bothers me. And Americans have no tolerance for pain. Look at everything we are doing technologically, medically, economically, and I believe you will find the avoidance of pain underlying it all. But pain is a part of the human condition and it needs to be faced and persevered through. Actually, Michael is almost a perfect symbol of a life devoted to ignoring, avoiding, and medicating pain.

(2) The cost of greatness is great. I am happy to see that this has not been completely ignored in the coverage, but Michael Jackson was a severely dysfunctional and unhappy human being. This is a common pattern in the lives of those we deem "great." In fact, it is so common that I would almost dare to say it is necessary. I don't know whether it is their genius or their drive (or both), but I challenge you to find an example of one of these transformative personalities for whom this hasn't been true. As I understand it, even Gandhi had a terrible relationship with his own children.

(3) Apart from the "crotch grab to pelvic thrust" move, Michael Jackson's dance moves were sick...in the good sense...in the sense that it is sickening how good they were.

(4) We are very selective in our moral outrage. Have you ever heard stories about people in complete denial about loved ones' sins? "I don't believe he (or she) is capable that!" "There is no way!" or "You just don't understand, he (or she) is really good." That is what the whole world is doing for Michael Jackson. What crime evokes more outrage than pedophilia, and yet over and over I hear people in complete denial of the his capacity to do such a thing (even though he is a textbook candidate), or even worse, the plea for people let him off the hook because of all the great things he has done. Maybe he didn't do it, but it is not because Michael Jackson could never do that.

Not that it matters, but those are my thoughts on the matter.

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